When Lynn first lost his ability to walk, what he missed the most was fishing. He loved to surf fish. At least four times a year, we would take a long weekend and go to Cape Hatteras for him to fish. It didn’t matter if it was raining, cold, or hot, he would pack up his fishing gear and take to the sand. Me–I would pack a good book and relax! At night we ate what he caught or we went out for seafood.
Our last trip was the weekend we found out he “officially” had MS. During that trip, he had extreme difficulty walking to the beach. I helped him take his gear and get settled and spent a lot of time on the beach “just in case.” Once the sun went down, I went in but he continued to fish. About an hour later, he came in soaking wet. The tide had come in and he had lost his balance and been pulled under, filling his high water boots to the top and soaking through all layers of clothing. By that point he could not stand upright. He walked bent at the waist holding on to whatever was close by. I helped him get in the rest of his gear and he took a shower. Although we didn’t talk much about it, we had already been prepared by the doctor that he expected the results to be MS. So in our hearts, we knew that life as we knew it then was about to change.
After his diagnosis, he was determined to keep doing the things he loved as long as possible. He soon was using a rollator which had a seat and I was pushing him in it more than he was walking with it. After a few “spills” where I would hit a bump I could not see and he would go flying, he got a wheelchair and then a power chair. He really liked the freedom the powerchair provided and began to do research on the possibility of a wheelchair that could go in the sand. He decided that the one that seemed to have most of the features he needed was made by a company called, Radical Mobility (http://radicalmobility.com/) located in South Africa. They advertised a really cool product. The chair itself was sturdy, not particularly pretty, but it would rise straight up to see over objects and tilt back. It had various speeds, and could go in sand, over inclines, up steps, and over rough terrain and still remain upright. It had headlights, a horn, and adjustable headrest, arm rests, and legs. It seemed to be just what he needed to be able to continue to surf fish.
At that same time he was approved for disability by social security and received his back pay check. It was just enough to cover the cost of the chair (almost $13,000 including shipping). We hated to spend that much but prayed about it and felt that buying the chair was putting our faith in the possibilities of future pleasures and realized dreams. He ordered the chair giving the specifications he needed. It took about four months to build and it was shipped in early May of 2010. We were due to go on vacation the last week of July. Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive till September due to sitting in customs waiting to be ruled as “safe” and not a terrorist device. At that same time, Lynn had developed a misdiagnosed urinary track infection. He was feeling worse and worse, losing his energy level steadily.
When we got word that the wheelchair was being delivered, he was too sick to check it out. The truck driver could not get up our driveway with his tractor-trailer. He unloaded it at the end of our drive way. The shabby crate it was in had holes punched in the sides and by the time it was unloaded from the truck, it was an easy push on the poorly constructed crate to take it apart and get the wheelchair out. The instructions were very basic and poorly written. I had a very difficult time figuring out how to operate it so I could load it onto a trailer behind my car to take it to the house. (It was not completely assembled so I could not drive it to the house.)
I got the parts assembled, put it in neutral and “walked” it into the house. Since each tire moved independently, it was very difficult to drive within the close quarters of the house and to make the turns, I had to lift it around corners. I parked it in the living room hoping Lynn would be able to try it out in a few days…
Fast forward to July. From September to July, Lynn was in and out of the hospital and recuperating from his lengthy admissions. Hoping that being able to us the wheelchair would give Lynn something special to look forward to, we decided to take it with us to the beach even though Lynn had not had a chance to drive it. He really wanted to use it to at least “walk” along the beach or fish from the pier.
Two nights after our arrival we decided to try it out. We backed it out of the van and I put Lynn in it. He drove around the parking lot a little to get a feel for it and then tried to drive it up the ramp so we could take it to the beach access area. He couldn’t get it to drive up the ramp! He weighted too much (keep in mind he had lost a lot of weight in the hospital so he maybe weighed 165 lbs). My lightweight daughter could drive it up the ramp but not him (we knew she could because she had loaded it into the van initially.) We finally pushed it manually up the ramp and into the van because we were determined to try it on the sand. We got to the access area and he drove it out of the van into the sand. It went across the parking lot to the sandy area and stalled. It would not go forward or backwards. Stuck! No movement at all! I had to drive back to the condo, get his transfer wheelchair, transfer him from the dead chair to the manual chair, and then we pushed the dead chair into the van. How disappointed we all were! I felt like crying. He was heart-broken.
So we came home and tried to contact Radical Mobility to get it fixed. We sent emails and got a response that someone would return our inquiry shortly. We waited…and waited… and waited. Nothing. We sent another email. Again we waited. We figured out the salesman we bought the chair from had left the company when I went to their Facebook page, so we tried the “contact us” email. Same thing. Someone named Martin was supposed to contact us. Nothing came. We repeated the process several times. Finally Martin responded and said send them the joystick, cables and motor. We had a question about what exactly was needed, again several weeks of sending emails with no response and finally we got the instructions.
We sent the parts to their location in South Africa. No word for months. Then finally in April of last year (2012), he said it was fixed and was being sent back to us. He cautioned it might take a while before we got it due to a postal strike in South Africa. That was eleven months ago and we still do not have the motor back. We have a gutted wheelchair sitting in our living room with no way to power it up. We have emailed Radical Mobility regularly since last April to ask for tracking information and help with locating our motor and no response. Occasionally we have gotten an email back saying they are checking on it and will get back but they don’t.
This machine was built in South Africa. They do not have an American facility. We have no way that we know of to get the motor back. We are now searching for another manufacturer who might be able to build a comparable motor that could be installed so we can use the wheelchair. I’m sure it will cost us several thousand to get the necessary parts programmed, built, shipped and installed.
I feel betrayed. This company is owned and the machines designed by someone who is paralyzed. He knows the struggles of the immobility challenged. How can he treat fellow disabled individuals so shabbily? It’s unethical and wrong on so many fronts. He took our $13,000 and gave us a large statue for our living room. It’s worthless. But the worth part is he shattered Lynn’s dream. We cannot afford another chair. That was his only hope for getting a chair to use in the sand. This company does not even respect us enough to communicate with us; they just ignore us completely.
So if you or anyone you know is considering buying an all terrain wheelchair, please warn them not to buy one from Radical Mobility. They will take your money and not give you what you paid for. Their customer service is not even marginally present and their product just plainly does not work. Do not be fooled by the claims on their website, their Facebook page, their Tweets or their blog. Do Not Buy From Them.
I have never written a negative review like this before but my conscience just keeps telling me to warn others. I hope I have helped someone else from making the same costly mistake we made.